Title: Uncommon Type
Author: Tom Hanks
Type: Short Stories
“Being Anna’s boyfriend was like training to be a Navy SEAL while working full-time in an Amazon fulfillment center in the Oklahoma Panhandle in tornado season. Something was going on every moment of every day. My 2:30 naps were a thing of the past”
I’ve always loved Tom Hanks as an actor, so when I saw that he had published a collection of short stories, I immediately wanted to read it. I’ve always had a love for short stories after reading Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and really enjoying that. Uncommon Type has 18 stories in its collection all with one thing in common – a typewriter. With an old-fashioned theme running through, the stories’ protagonists vary in age, gender, and situation. With everything from time and space travel to a man struggling in a new relationship, Hanks showcases an array of stories.
My favourite stories were Three Exhausting Weeks and These Are the Mediations of my Heart; as someone who likes to write, the latter one felt particularly close to home, because I’ve definitely thought that having a typewriter would make me more motivated to write, and suddenly I would have a fully formed manuscript in my hands. As a protagonist, she felt more relatable and therefore I connected with her more than I did with other protagonists in the other stories.
My main problem with this collection, is just that they were aggressively average. There was nothing particularly wrong with the stories, but I was never hooked or wowed by any of them. I suppose because of that, they did provide some comfortable predicability, but I would have liked at least one of them to be extraordinary. Also, as a British person, I did feel like these stories were rooted in America – something I’m sure an American reader would appreciate more than I did because, for me, it just made them less accessible.
The 18 stories included four newspaper articles, all titled “Our Town Today with Hank Fiset.” Every time I got to another one of these, I was less than captivated. They just fell a bit flat. Again, I think maybe other people were best placed to appreciate them, but it was annoying that they weren’t more accessible. I think the Our Town titles may have been a reference to Thorton Wilder’s play, and even though I know that play, and what it represents in American society, unfortunately, I just didn’t really care.
Overall, this was an enjoyable collection of short stories, although not one of my favourites. There’s no doubt that Hanks has an impeccable ability to write, but I think I would have liked to see more of the struggles of the human condition – more emotion, more pain, less mundanity. I’m sure other people will find comfort in the familiarity of these stories, and I did like his style of storytelling, I just hope, if he writes something else, that I’m a little more blown away.